Thursday, October 05, 2006

Blackhawks, Anyone?

(Editor's note: This was put together today while waiting for my Pops and his outpatient procedure to finish up. So if it's more rambling and incoherent than normal, understand that my mind was distracted. Oh, that and I don't know much about hockey other than it's played on ice.)

So tonight marks the start of the Chicago Blackhawk's regular season when they go on the road and face Paul Kariya and the Nashville Predators. (For those of you who don't know, that's the NHL hockey team that plays at the United Center when the Bulls are outta town.) I'm not sure how many people noticed but the Hawks (should I call them the Blackhawks so no one confuses them with the Seahawks or Atlanta Hawks?) had a decent preseason registering a 7-1 record, and so there's a bit of buzz hanging over the Original Six team.

Too bad that buzz is nothing but the noise from the lights at the UC.

I'm not sure how well I can preview this team for you readers, cuz honestly, outside of goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and defenseman Adrian Aucoin, I don't know many of the players. The top three scorers from last year's team (Kyle Calder, Mark Bell, Tyler Arnason) are gone, and a whole new first line (Mikael Holmqvist, Michael Handzus, Martin Havlat) occupies the starting lineup for Coach Trent Yawney and crew. Rene Borque, the second year LW, is back and will look to improve on the 34 points and +3 +/- he recorded as a rookie. Second year Brent Seabrook joins Jim Vandermeer as the starting defensemen. Captain Martin Lapointe hopes to improve upon his -30 +/-.

What else can I tell you about this team? In honor of the +/- stat hockey likes to keep we'll try a positive/ negative approach to the rest of this preview.

+ Dale Tallon is a bright, if not young, mind in the GM seat of the Blackhawks.
- Bill Wirtz still owns the team.

+ Khabibulin looks to be in better shape than when he reported to camp after the strike year.
- It would be hard not to be in better shape after a year of drinking vodka outta the Stanley Cup.

+ The UC is still as enticing a place to see a hockey game as there is in the NHL.
- Too bad home television viewers will never see it.

+ The power play has scored a few goals in the preseason, 15 in 8 games
- Umm, isn't that the idea behind a Power Play?

+ The new rules to cut down on diving should give the Hawks less fake penalties to worry about.
- If they bodied a man in the first place instead of always trying to catch a skater from behind, there wouldn't be a problem.

+ The other new rule allowing for a greater curve on the stick will increase scoring leagure wide.
- And last year the Hawks were the team that probably took the least advantage thumbing their noses at the old rule.

+ I'd love to see the Hawks keep up their 3.82 goals per game average of the preseason.
- It would make Khabibulin's 3.35 goals against from last year moot.

+ The youngsters who got plenty of ice experience last season will step up and continue to progress .
- Injuries like the ones to Tuomo Ruutu and Michael Handzus can derail any hopes real quick.

Last year's 65 points were the 3rd lowest in all the NHL and any sign of improvement just might bring the pride back to Chicago. Not only are teh Blackhawks an Original Six team, the also own the distinction of having the best jersey in all of professional sports. An official red road (nod to Soxually Repressed for the heads up) home sweater used to be to die for.

What else can I say about the NHL season? It's time to get Nanook of the North off South Beach and back where Lord Stanley intended to be, somewhere where it's cold from November thru March. The last two champions have resided in Tampa Bay and Carolina, hardly cold weather climes.

And while we're at it, explain Vs. to me. OLN I could understand, Vs., not so much.

Of course I blame this all on Wayne Gretzky. If he just woulda stayed in Edmonton, then the hockey gods (Puck?) wouldn't be punishing Canada by taking away their game from them. But then again hockey is just a niche sport, so who's watching anyways?


Blogger jamesmnordbergjr said...

It wasn't exactly playoff-like hockey, but the Hawks did manage to kill off 8 of the 9 penalties called against them and they even scored a short-handed goal enroute to a season opening 8-6 win in Nashville, a place they hadn't won in since 2003.

Martin Havlaat, the off-season's biggest acquisition, had two goals and an assist to lead the Hawks.

Nikolai Khabibulin wasn't exactly Bulin Wall-like (he was more like a Dutch dike that sprung some leaks everywhere), but he stopped 34 of 40 shots on goal.

Way too many penalties taken by the Hawks, but with the addition of a few skill players, you can see this Hawks team just might be a bit more competitive than in recent years.

5:19 AM, October 06, 2006  
Blogger Soxually Repressed said...

I can let the misspellings go with your delusions. I am guessing that you meant the team IS thumbing their noses at the NEW rule, or at least you anticipate them to do so based on last year's performance.
MOOT means IN question, not pointless or without question. (Don't feel bad about that, it's common.)
Nobody would confuse me for an actual hockey fan. However, even I know that the road jersey, to die for or not, is WHITE. This means, of course, home is RED. The only reason I know this is because I grew up in the Greater Chicagoland area and have watched a nominal amount of sports during my life. Remember, home games are verbooten on local tv, so most of what you can see is road jersey viewing.
I will now leave the rest of the Blackhawks season in your obviously knowledgeable fingers. (I know that seems badly worded, but it is Friday, and I do not care.)

10:43 AM, October 06, 2006  
Blogger jamesmnordbergjr said...

You're starting to piss me off, Double-U.

1.) From The American Heritage Dictionary:

Moot (n) Law 2b. Of no practical importance.

i.e. meaningless

2.) If you understood the subtext concerning the stick curvature, you'd realize that I was talking about last year, and how most players would disregard the rule as would most refs. I was also making a point that the Hawks sucked last year, and no form of cheating would have helped them.

3.) You got me on the jersey, and I knew it as soon as I typed it too, but I hate editing which now I'll have to do.

And you can stop with the patronizing and back-handed compliments and focus on your own writing.

(BTW, for those of you who don't know, Soxually Repressed and I go waaaaaay back, and we will bitch at each other like little girls from time to time. So mind your own business.)

11:10 AM, October 06, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here from Deadspin...

To be fair to someone who does not know much about hockey, the Hawk White sweater was the HOME sweater and the Red sweater was the ROAD sweater until just the last 5 or so years. My recollection is that the Hawks switched them up at the All-Star break one year, allegedly to allow the remaining fans to see what the White sweater looked like since those were the only games shown on TV. Then the whole league switched (white became the road sweater, etc.) when teams started wearing "alternate" sweaters (in the case of the Hawks, the Black sweater), as they wanted to be able to wear the alternative sweaters for home games to gin up sales and the NHL did not want to make teams bring 2 sets of unis and helmets (the then common Home white and the Road "color" sweaters) on road trips. Now all teams just wear white on the road.

That probably is more than you ever wanted to know about the situation, but you know what, it actually bugs me because I grew so accustomed to seeing the home squad in white, that I have to reorient myself as to who is home, etc. when I watch a game on Center Ice. I am old and set in my ways.

Go Hawks!

12:56 PM, October 06, 2006  
Blogger jamesmnordbergjr said...

Thank you, Anon, I didn't think I was going outta my mind about that. I remember the players wearing the white sweater for the home playoffs from the late '80s/ early '90s, and I always figured it had something to do with merchandising.

1:00 PM, October 06, 2006  
Blogger Criminal Appeal said...

At 9:00 this morning I was shocked to discover that I had just written a post about the Blackhawks on my own blog. I love hockey, but the Blackhawks organization does make it hard to be a fan. Anyway, the Blackhawks should actually be a good show this year. Havlat is a potential big time scorer. Bourque leads an exciting group of young players (although why his first name is pronounced Rennee I'll never know). They went 2 for 2 on the power play last night, and it was the guys acquired to spark the pp that got it done. Aucoin's long pass to Bourque to set up Smolinski's goal was thing of beauty, eh. I also loved how every time the Hawks made a good offensive play, Comcast cut to a shot of Savard on the bench.

2:32 PM, October 06, 2006  
Blogger jamesmnordbergjr said...

I read your blog this morning with a smile on my face, Crimedog. It's nice to find at least one other person on the web who gives a enough of a shit about them to write something. (I fully expect to see something on Foul Balls soon.)

2:38 PM, October 06, 2006  

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